Sunday, 29 July 2012

'Give us tax rebates for money spent on guards'

As fear of crime lingers, residents are now looking to the government to ease out-of-pocket expenses of feeling safe.

Asked if they agree if rebates should be given for those who subscribe to guarded community schemes on Malaysiakini's Facebook page last week, most said 'yes'.

Those who agreed said that by contributing to monthly fees to pay for security guards, the residents are paying double taxation.

NONE"It is not government's money in the first place. Among the things we pay for through our taxes is safety. If the government cannot provide us that service we should get the rebate," respondent Leong Peng Keong said.

Agreeing, Jason Wong said that guarded community schemes also help out the police, who need not patrol the respective areas as much.

A smaller number of people, however, felt that offering such rebates is unfair to communities who cannot afford such schemes.

Frank Wong also felt that those who subscribe to such schemes should not expect to be subsidised by other taxpayers who do not.

"That is their money and their decision, nothing to do with the rest of us. They live in expensive houses in expensive areas. (If) they want to get extra private protection, that is their own decision," Frank said.

Assessment rebate

For Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur resident Stephen Quah, the rebates, however, should come from assessment rates and not from taxes for the sake of simplicity.

"DBKL now has said recently that they have more than RM2 billion in their kitty so they can afford it," he said.

Quah added that as subscription is likely to be paid by the tenants, tenants can also use this to negotiate lower rent from their landlords.

"When home owners get a discount, that is a percentage of their assessment fees, they can pass it on to the tenants in the form of lower rents," he said.

NONECiting personal experience, he said that property resale and rental values also go up when the community has such schemes in place.

While he agrees to the idea of tax rebates, PC Cheok, whose tenants subscribe to a guarded community scheme in Sri Damansara, is not so sure about the rent discount.

"If demand for rental property is high, then there is no need to reduce the rent," said Cheok who also lives in the area, which he claims pays up to RM1.2 million a year for the guarded community scheme.

The amount is in far contrast to the RM4,800 a year offered by the government to communities which form Rukun Tetangga to conduct their own neighbourhood watches.

Once a member of the Rukun Tetangga, Quah said that the scheme is untenable as poor participation means that a small number of volunteers shoulder the burden of patrolling the whole neighbourhood.

"It is unfair to the core (volunteers) who stay awake. Better to let them earn money and hire a security company," he said.

Tell us what we can or can't do'

Beyond rebates, Cheok said that one thing the government can do to assist residents who subscribe to the scheme is to allow the employment of foreign security guards.

Although illegal, many schemes employ guards from countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh to bring costs down and Cheok said foreign nationals have proven to be "very dedicated".

"We have tried local guards but the companies keep having to change the guards as they have been unreliable," he said, adding that this constant change of personnel does not provide a sense of security.

NONEQuah added that the government as well as the security companies association can also ease the hassle faced by most neighbourhood security committees by providing a list of reliable firms.

He said that neighbourhood committees could fill up score sheets to grade the companies they hired, and those who score high on these sheets can be put in the list of recommended companies for other neighbourhoods to choose from.

"This is the incentive for the security companies," he said.

The government can also assist the residents' initiative by streamlining the process of compliance, and making clear what residents can and cannot do.

Presently, committees have to get interest from at least 75 percent of households involved, plus clearance from local government, the police and fire department.

"We need clear rules, or a compliance list so we know what we can or cannot do, what the guards can carry, where the CCTV's can be placed etc.

"There should be a simple compliance list to assist and encourage communities to setup such schemes," he said.

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